To be honest, I really can’t pinpoint when my college admission journey began. Growing up in a well-educated South Asian immigrant family, scholastic success was seemingly lauded from birth – and always expected. My immigrant doctor parents started from the bottom and with their relentless work ethic came to achieve the “American Dream”. Naturally, they expected my brothers and me to mirror their successes.
And did my brother ever mirror their success. He maintained stellar grades throughout high school and aced his standardized tests, resulting in him matriculating at St. John’s University with a full-ride scholarship. Mimicking and even superseding his record in high school, my brother received a near-perfect GPA and aced his standardized tests again, leading to his matriculation at Mayo Medical School, one of the world’s foremost medical institutions.
Suffice it to say, the bar was set pretty high for me.
My own high school experience was relatively ordinary: I achieved good marks in my classes, participated in myriad clubs, and channeled my inner Usain Bolt by running track (to no avail). Throughout it all, the imminent presence of standardized tests and college applications loomed near. Soon, I became a junior, which came with its many sleepless nights and (in hindsight) too many hours spent taking practice exams for SATs and APs. I even earned myself a dope nickname in the streets for my efforts – “AP Ayyan”.
I made it out of junior year relatively unscathed. Now, I was left with the task of winnowing my college search to a handful of school. Ok, maybe more than a handful of schools. I ended up narrowing my list to 18 or so schools, based in large part on the academic rigors of the institution. Creating a college list was relatively easy, as I always had a rough idea of the type of schools I’d end up applying to.
Next, I would be faced with a task I hope would never befall my worst enemy: writing college admissions essays. “Why do you want to go to our school?” Hmm, I like the petunias in the front lawn. “What has been your biggest challenge to date?” If I’m being honest, writing your essay. My personal favorite was: “ Tell us: what makes odd numbers odd?” I ended up not applying to this school in large part because I had no idea what in the world to say.
I managed to finish all my applications early on in senior year, leaving me with ample time to enjoy senior year’s finest perk: doing absolutely nothing. While I slept in, mysteriously caught “the itis” for days on end, and put off senior projects until the very last day (or hour), college admissions committee’s earnestly worked their way through thousands of applications, debating whether a well-polished New Yorker named Ayyan should receive admission to their venerable institutions.
I think word of my antics during senior year might have spread to the Adcom’s ears, because with the arrival of spring came the arrival of a plethora of well-worded, politically- correct rejection letters. And my year was the first that many schools exclusively sent decisions via Internet portals, so it wasn’t even like I could use the backs of the rejections letters as a notepad to write the fire bars to my debut rap album. Congrats, schools that rejected me – you played yourself.
One school, however, seemingly enjoyed my Common App essay – an epic “rap” poem mirroring Homer’s Iliad – so much that they not only offered me admission but also a full tuition scholarship and more. That visionary institution – the place I now call home – is no other than SUNY at Stony Brook, which I lovingly allude to as “Da Brook”. My relationship with Da Brook is somewhat analogous to the relationship I enjoy with my younger brother: I hate to admit we’re related, but I really can’t envision myself without them, and I really miss them both when I’m away.
My college journey to Stony Brook University has been tumultuous to say the least, but I now loudly proclaim… I’m a Seawolf!